February 27, 2012

iPad trial in the classroom (VIDEO | 3 PICS)

There's been a positive response from students and parents at Neutral Bay Public School as they trial iPads in the classroom.

Jury is still out, but iPads may put the pen to the sword

PEN and paper are not yet in the dustbin of history but the radical transformation being wrought in the learning experiences of year 6 students at Neutral Bay Public School in Sydney's lower north shore suggests time may be running out for traditional methods.

The school has just issued all 145 year 6 students with an iPad as part of a $100,000 year-long trial. Almost all classroom work will now be done on the hand-held device.

''It's better than writing in books,'' says Charlotte Prichard, 11, as she lovingly caresses her new tablet.

Working in groups of two or three on a maths project some students sit at desks, others lie on the floor and some cradle iPads on their knees. Few take their eyes from the screen for a moment, and then only to display their work to their teacher, David Brown.

The iPads, which remain school property and are locked away at the end of the day, have been bought by the school from public funds scrimped from recent budgets - savings made possible by the strong financial support of parents.

There's been a positive response from students and parents at Neutral Bay Public School as they trial iPads in the classroom.

The trial is part of a new wave of technology washing through public schools. Alexandria Park Community School in Sydney's inner east has given students from kindergarten through to year 12 access to a laptop as part of a community project.

Students at Neutral Bay can write by hand on the tablets but the deputy principal, Owen Taylor, emphasises pen and paper remained in play.

''We're not throwing out pens and paper and all the 20th-century stuff, but it's not playing as much of a role as it used to,'' Mr Taylor says.

What the iPad does - apart from put a world of knowledge immediately within reach of everyone in the room at the same time - is make technology integral to learning rather than an add-on experience.

Children may still be set the same task - although increasingly they are given individual challenges - but can produce their answer in a format that suits them, says Mr Brown.

Chalking up another learning experience ... Isabella Sully, Charlotte Prichard and Maxine Kok, pupils of Neutral Bay Public, are enthusiastic about their iPads.
On their way to a conclusion they might write, draw, record or film their thoughts on how they tackled the task, and Mr Brown acknowledges it is a struggle to keep pace with avenues his students are exploring.
''I'm pretty good but the kids are always one step ahead of me,'' he says.

He emphasises the iPads need to prove their worth to remain in the classroom. ''It is a trial and if it is not making a significant difference to our kids' learning outcomes then we won't maintain it long-term,'' he says.
Sharon Mitchell, whose daughter Alice Bishop is part of the trial, says it has given students ''a bolt of energy''.

''They've all still got to learn to read and to do their maths,'' she says. ''Everyone bribes and coerces their kids and finds ways to get them motivated. This has given these kids unbelievable motivation.''

Albert Park College students Aislinge Samuel and Oscar Walsh, both 13.

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